Since joining the US Senate, former Florida Governor Rick Scott has tried to pass himself off as a DC outsider and non-pol with new ideas and a refreshing lack of allegiance to party orthodoxy. It’s bullshit of a particularly pungent variety that will be familiar to anyone who has followed his career.
Scott won the governorship during the country’s Astroturf tea party era using a similar ruse, casting himself as a businessman with fresh ideas. He was and remains a thoroughly corrupt fraudster who regards the $150 million-plus of his personal fortune he spent on his campaigns as an investment that will pay off when he redirects the flow of government contracts toward his businesses.
In other words, Scott is just as corrupt and craven as every other Republican politician, just wealthier than most. In yesterday’s Post, opinions editor James Downie identified how Scott is a chickenshit on gun control, just like a common Republican:
Appearing on the Sunday talk shows a day after another mass shooting left seven dead in Midland and Odessa, Tex., would Scott tout the bill he signed as an example to fellow Republicans that the NRA need not be feared? No. Instead, he was too scared of the NRA to even talk about much of the law that he himself signed…
Scott described “what we did in Florida” in similar terms on CNN’s “State of the Union,” as well as in an August op-ed for The Post: “The steps we took in Florida, in addition to committing $400 million to increasing school safety, included a ‘red flag’ provision.”
You might be thinking at this point, “That’s doesn’t sound like all that much.” But Scott himself left out many of the key changes the law made. It also banned bump stocks (which increase the rate of fire for semiautomatic weapons), implemented a three-day waiting period for firearm sales and raised the minimum age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21. The latter change was significant enough that the NRA is suing over it, yet somehow it managed to slip Scott’s memory.
The truth is that after Parkland, then-Governor Scott and the Republican-majority statehouse would have been happy to do the NRA’s bidding as usual and sweep the latest massacre under the rug with “thoughts and prayers.” They’d done so after the Pulse nightclub massacre, which at the time was the single deadliest shooting spree in US history.
The difference in Florida was the Parkland survivors. They wouldn’t let the news cycle move on, and they were savvy enough to tie their protests to voter registration drives and political action.
Thanks to their efforts, for the first time in decades, Republican lawmakers in Florida feared backlash from disgusted citizens more than the NRA and gun nuts. That’s why meaningful gun safety laws were passed in the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Scott.
Trump and the Republicans in Congress are right where Scott and the FL statehouse were when Emma González gave her “We Call BS” speech. They’re hoping media attention from this latest spate of massacres blows over so they won’t be pressured to restrict access to guns in any meaningful way. Scott is part of that effort, which is why he’s omitting key details about what happened in Florida.
The guns are the problem, but Republicans will do anything to avoid taking the obvious steps the rest of the developed world has taken to stop the carnage we Americans routinely endure. But why is this still the case, when the NRA is in a weakened state and public sentiment is clearly shifting?
Yesterday in comments, Kay highlighted one possible motive for this hysterical paralysis: If gun nuts belatedly admit that guns are the problem, that’s tantamount to admitting they were wrong to insist on unfettered access to firearms for decades and that people died as a result of that mistake. She described it as a “sunk cost” situation.
I think that’s true, and because it is, nothing will budge rank and file gun nuts from their reflexive defensiveness on guns. Their own part in enabling the massacres is simply too horrifying to admit the possibility.
But Republican politicians can be moved, as the actions on which Scott developed selective amnesia demonstrate. The Parkland survivors made Florida Republicans more fearful of backlash from voters than they were of the NRA. Nothing will change at the federal level until we replicate that on a national scale. I believe we will.